Cover of the first Marvel comic book version.


Original Medium: TV animation
Produced by: Hanna-Barbera
First Appeared: 1991
Creator: David Kirschner
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A lot of Hanna-Barbera cartoons emphasized adventure over humor — Birdman, Shazzan, The Mighty Mightor … But only in The Pirates of Darkwater was there …

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… an ongoing storyline, where the heroes had a goal in sight, a goal which, when achieved, would bring about a satisfactory conclusion to the series. Unfortunately, the series didn't last long enough for the heroes to reach that goal.

The show began as a five-episode mini-series, aired daily on ABC from February 25 through March 1, 1991. In it, Ren (no relation), a young lighthouse keeper of the extra-dimensional world of Mer, discovered he was the rightful heir to the throne of the kingdom of Octopon. To establish his rule, he needed 13 treasures — which, by the way, would also be useful in eliminating the Darkwater, a viscous, black liquid that consumed whatever it touched, and was well on its way to destroying the planet. He quickly assembled what the show's opening monolog called "an unlikely but loyal crew of misfits", which was actually not unlikely at all in stories of this sort. Ren was the one with heroic qualities, with a pirate named Ioz playing the requisite good-hearted rogue, Tula as the token female, and Niddler (a winged monkey that could talk) as a surrogate dog. Bloth, a sea king who coveted the "Treasures of Rule", heedless of the consequences of not using them against the Darkwater (any resemblance to petroleum magnates' attitude toward oil pollution being no-doubt purely coincidental) provided the villainy necessary to drive the plot.

Ren's voice was provided by George Newbern (Superman in the 2001 animated Justice League of America). Ioz started out as Hector Elizondo (Dr. Calamari in Fish Police), but he was later replaced by Jim Cummings (Darkwing Duck). Tula was Jodi Benson (Disney's Little Mermaid). Niddler began as Roddy McDowall (well known as a face actor, with relatively few voice credits), but the role was later played by Frank Welker (Dynomutt). Bloth was Brock Peters (Snorch in Aaahh!!! Real Monsters). Other voices included, among others, Tim Curry (Nigel Thornberry), Stacy Keach (various voices in Thundarr the Barbarian), Tress MacNeille (Babs Bunny) and Julie McWhirter (Baby Smurf). The producer and creator of the series was David Kirschner, who also did the 1992 revival of Hanna-Barbera's version of The Addams Family.

The show was picked up as a regular weekly series for the 1991-92 season, and eight additional episodes were made. Another eight were made for 1992-93. But there, it ended — with five treasures yet to be found.

Marvel Comics published The Pirates of Darkwater as a comic book, starting with a November, 1991 cover date. It was originally intended as a six-issue mini-series, but was extended for an additional three. The last was dated August, 1992. There was also a role-playing game, plus a few action figures and some other merchandising, but nowhere near the flood of products a more popular cartoon would have produced.

Tho apparently not numerous enough to sustain the show to its conclusion, fans of The Pirates of Darkwater seem quite enthusiastic. Many are still wishing Hanna-Barbera would show them the rest of the story.


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Text ©2004-06 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Hanna-Barbera.